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We've made it too complicated.
Almost everyone used to be thin. All people more or less. Or at least, way more people than are thin today.
What is the one thing that is drastically different in today than in, say, the 1970s and prior?
I'd argue that it's snacking.
Decades back, people
didn't used to snack. You had breakfast. Then you had lunch. Then you
had dinner. If you missed a meal? Guess what? You waited until the next
I'm convinced that the food industry has tricked us into believing that we need all these snacks. Because snacks are quite often packaged foods, and everyone knows that packaged foods are marked up WAY more than fresh ones. A marketer's dream!
Many clients of mine lose weight while on vacation. I'm convinced that part of this is due to the fact that they tend to just eat 2-3 meals a day and little to no snacks while away.
Personally, I stopped snacking 5 or 6 years ago. Guess what happened? I found maintaining my weight (or losing, if necessary) easier than ever before. There is so much less planning when you don't snack. Also, total calories, at least for many people I know, end up being so much more easily controlled. And it's total calories that really wreak havoc on our weight. Furthermore, you learn to deal with feelings and emotions that you used to stuff down with food in other ways. Because you are forced to.
Life just gets simpler when you don't snack. And willpower becomes saved up for other tasks, because you don't always have to think, "should I eat, or not?" You know the answer without having to think about it. It also eliminates that mental battle of whether or not you'll grab some junk food at a sporting event or at the movies, or even in your car while driving around.
The average American consumes 650 calories worth of snacks EACH DAY. For some adults, that is over 1/3 of a day's total calories, and that's only if you are trying to maintain your weight, not lose! It didn't used to be this way.
Also, it is a complete and total MYTH that metabolism is boosted by snacking. End of story.
Most people I know who maintain leanness long term don't snack. The proof is in the pudding (err - forget I mentioned pudding!)
Now, I understand sometimes life gets messy. For example, if I go to a party and there is really only snack foods available and it's mealtime, I'll have some of this, and some of that, and just call it my "meal." Also, if I truly crave a "snack" food, I will have it, but as part of my meal, not at a separate time. Like having some chips on the side at lunch.
For some people, only eating three meals just doesn't work due to their activity levels or their body's metabolism. That's fine. You can have 4 or even 5 meals each day, as long as they are a bit smaller and nutritionally balanced (they contain at least a protein and a fruit and/or vegetable).
People ask, "But what do you do if you get HUNGRY?" Honestly, hunger doesn't kill you. I can get a tad bit hungry an hour or so before a meal. Remember what that used to feel like? I bet it's been awhile. It is actually a sign that your body is burning fat for energy. And you will figure out how to make your meals the right size, so that hunger is not a huge problem. Also, you'd be surprised how fluids can fill in the gaps in between meals. It is important that you have balanced meals to ensure that all your nutrient needs are met. But really, should you be doing that anyway?
Do I miss snacking? Honestly, I don't. I guess I did at the beginning, but eventually I loved the simplicity of the plan, and also the fact that my meals could actually be large enough to feel satisfying. Also, I used to have an eating disorder, and by stopping the snacking I felt that I obsessed and thought about food less, which was a very good thing. The last piece that I love about not snacking is it's much easier to keep my teeth feeling clean and fresh.
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